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Fat of the Land

Moishes, Rue du Square-Victoria, 29 June 2023

An entirely new sensation recently came over me.

I won’t say who or how I learned the news, but I discovered last month that someone who had very badly trolled me online — one of the few people who actually made threats, and about whom I filed a number of unanswered reports to Twitter, leading me in no small part to leave that platform entirely — has died. A person who wrote that they would harm me has departed. Dead dead deadski. Gone. Split. Outta here. Afterlife, kids. I wished them dead, and they died.

Only Scorpios and the Germans have a word for this.

Carmina Burana, Orchestre Classique de Montréal, Maison Symphonique 20 June 2023

The OCM closed out its season with a rousing rendition of Carl Orff’s cantata, Carmina Burana, otherwise known as the soundtrack to every action movie between about 1984 and 2010, when it achieved peak cliché status.

A new orchestral work by Maxime Goulet, entitled Fire & Ice, inspired by the devastating Montreal ice storm of 1998 and commissioned by director Taras Kulish, preceded the Orff performance. No shade to ’98, but we’ve already endured an equally wicked ice storm, several heat waves, and ongoing apocalyptic forest fires as if 2023 has been one giant hold-my-beer meme.

War soundtracks are either from a soldier’s perspective or from the sidelines. The front-line fighter wants to hear something that charges him up — like Russia’s favourite, The Prodigy.

Whereas the armchair spectator craves something more emotional and dramatic, like William Ryan Fritch’s heartrending, ambient soundtrack to this slickly produced New York Times documentary.

Russia provides the war, The Times provides the score.

Jim Holyoak, Gargantuans, McBride Contemporain, 25 May – 30 June 2023

On 6 December 1969, a free concert was mounted at the Altamont Speedway outside of Tracy, California. The lineup featured a who’s who of 60s psychedelia including Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Grateful Dead, and The Rolling Stones. The event’s organizers billed it as the Woodstock of the West, promising peace, love, and all the dope that anyone could desire.

The security detail, however — the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang — was not on the same trip. As night fell, the Altamont concert descended into chaos, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths.

A Hell’s Angels member repeatedly stabbed Stephen Stills in the leg with a bicycle spoke, and the lead singer of the San Francisco band the Ace of Cups, Denise Jewkes, suffered a fractured skull when a bottle was tossed in from the crowd.

Meredith Hunter, a black teenager, took a knife in the back after he charged the stage with a pistol. He succumbed to his injuries.

Hunter’s target was unclear. Was it simply revenge for an earlier skirmish, or did the devil’s sympathizers somehow possess this man in a lime green suit?

Inevitable, 540 St. Laurent Blvd, 26 June 2023

Everything I know about Italian food I learned from either Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese. I recall an appearance by Scorsese and his mother, Catherine, on an episode of Late Night With David Letterman to promote the film Goodfellas. Mrs. Scorsese had baked a pizza for Letterman’s audience and was cutting it with scissors. Dave remarked that she wasn’t using a knife or a pizza cutter, and she informed him that to scissor was the preferable method.

I immediately noticed that Mr. Arciero used scissors to slice his pizzas, too. This affirmed its legitimacy to me. I’m not Italian; I’m Ukrainian. But Italians and Ukrainians have the same word for tomatoes, which makes us practically comrade paisans. And dare I submit that Italians know better what to do with tomatoes. We use them as sauce for cabbage rolls. Italians mix them with basil and spread them on fermented dough. And damn, it’s delicious.

There isn’t any pretence about Inevitable. No ultrahip font or incandescent bulbs with glowing filaments exposed. Just Italian goodness made by some fellas.

Maison Margan, 370 Place Royale, 27 June 2023

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the hot dog king of Moscow, has increasingly been employing divisive, populist rhetoric in public, saying things like, “The children of the elite smear themselves with creams, showing it on the internet; ordinary people’s children come in zinc, torn to pieces.” 

Though Prigozhin is no ordinary person. He’s a billionaire with a private army that would make David Koresh’s compound look like a carnival in a parking lot. Prigozhin is decidedly a member of the elite.

But he is so ugly. His skin is rough and ruddy. You know what’s decadent? Those teeth. Someone could use a makeover.

Screenshot from a New York Times Opinion Video entitled “A Salute to the Honest(ish) Russian Warlord.”

Prigozhin and madmen like him would rather the elite’s children come in zinc, torn to pieces, too, than, God forbid, ordinary children smear themselves with creams on the internet, even though there’s nothing decadent in the strictest sense of the word about a good cream smearing from time to time.

Rather, self-care resists decay. This is why lipstick was such a coveted commodity after World War II. Cosmetics might have even stimulated the Baby Boom and the period of peaceful Western prosperity that followed.

At the beginning of the Ukrainian invasion, I volunteered at St. Sophie’s Cathedral, helping to organize the immense and generous volume of community contributions to incoming Ukrainians displaced by war. Coats, clothes, boots, books, games, furniture, cups, saucers, dishes, cutlery, soap, shampoo, body cream.

My eyes fell upon a wooden bowlful of toiletries donated by a local luxury hotel. A woman who had come to the church with her two children picked out a tube of body cream from the bowl as if it were a precious gem or an orchid.

This woman was by no means elite. But nor was she ordinary. She was in a church basement in Montreal selecting a donated tube of hotel body cream under extremely extraordinary circumstances.

We are fortunate in this city, despite having to navigate between orange cones and languages, to have nice things. We deserve nice things. Everyone does. Even Yevgeny Prigozhin. Let’s oppose zinc and ordinary children torn to pieces, not body cream.

Grace means beauty amidst brutality. It is not an end, but a means to one.◼︎